October 2009
Summary of autopsy reports for seabirds killed and returned from observed New Zealand fisheries.

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Autopsy report for seabirds killed and returned from observed New Zealand fisheries 1 October 2005 to 30 September 2006 (Full report, PDF, 8372K)

A smaller file is available without Appendix 2 (PDF, 200K).


Large numbers of seabirds frequent New Zealand commercial fishing waters. The accurate determination of the taxa of seabirds captured in New Zealand fisheries is vital for examining the potential threat to population viability posed by incidental fisheries captures. Further, the assessment of the age-class, sex and provenance of captured individuals requires autopsy in the majority of cases.

Between 1 October 2005 and 30 September 2006 (the 2005/06 fishing year), a total of 369 seabirds comprising 20 taxa were incidentally killed as bycatch and returned for autopsy by on-board New Zealand government fisheries observers. Birds were returned from longline, trawl and setnet vessels. Seabirds returned during the 2005/06 fishing year were dominated numerically by three species: sooty shearwater Puffinus griseus, white-capped albatross Thalassarche steadi and white-chinned petrel Procellaria aequinoctialis.

Birds returned from longline fisheries had injuries consistent with being hooked or entangled in the bill or throat. Birds returned from trawl fisheries were mostly killed through entanglement in the net, with fewer individuals likely killed from a warp interaction. Mean fat scores were generally higher in birds from the 2005/06 fishing year than in previous years.

Seabirds returned from the 2005/06 fishing year, and from trawl fisheries in particular, showed clear size-related differences in the likely cause of death, and offal appears to continue to be an attractant for many taxa. Examining the causes of mortality and types of injuries suffered by individual seabirds returned from fisheries is necessary to help reduce future seabird captures in New Zealand fisheries by identifying areas of risk.

Publication information

By D.R. Thompson, DOC Marine Conservation Services Series 2. 35 p.
ISSN 1179–3147 (web PDF)
ISBN 978–0–478–14689–9 (web PDF)


Conservation Services Programme
Department of Conservation
PO Box 10-420
Wellington 6143


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